The University of the West Indies’ founding Mona Campus has created a tradition that reflects one aspect of the UWIs undeniable contribution to Caribbean life and development. In a park near the campus’ Irvine Hall Gate, on a monument whose centrepiece harks back to the early university and to Gibraltar Camp which preceded it, the names of UWI graduates who have become regional leaders of government are inscribed.
July 20, 2016 saw the inscription of the name of Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley, a graduate of both the UWI Mona Campus in Jamaica and St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad, having studied and specialised in geology, seismology and vulcanology. He also worked on the St. Augustine Campus as a Research Fellow and later Head of the Seismic Research Unit, now the Seismic Research Centre, before entering politics.
The Mona monument already has names of more than a dozen UWI graduates who have led or currently lead countries across the region, and there are others awaiting inscription including Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow. Mr Holness pursued a BSc in Management Studies and an MSc in Development Studies at Mona; Mr Barrow studied law at Cave Hill and the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica.
Ironically, the centrepiece of the monument, is a cracked and patched church bell which started life in the belfry of the Catholic church that was central to the life of Gibraltar Camp, a World War 2 evacuee and refugee camp at Mona that was re-purposed in 1948 by the nascent University College of the West Indies (UCWI). The first male hall, dubbed Gibraltar Hall, was in the vicinity of the belfrey and the bell rang for early UCWI mealtimes. When the first purpose-built halls of residence were opened, the male students pulled down and adopted the bell and it became a symbol of hall sporting rivalry before it was removed from the campus. After some decades, it was retrieved, following guarantees that the bell would be secured if returned; and the present Museum Curator – then a heritage researcher linked to the campus – was directed to collect it from the Irvine Hall laundry. It was given safe haven in the WIC of the Mona Main Library until the monument was built in the park that honours UWI graduates who have become leaders of government..